Fast Food And NCAA-Sponsored Gambling

Tis the season when moderately avid sports fans suddenly realize semi-professional to professional unpaid NCAA college athletes have been playing basketball since sometime in November. Rabid fans, players, coaches, family members, groupies and gambling addicts have of course been aware of this fact all along and pay rapt attention to various outcomes, sometimes resulting in visits to various boat or possibly yacht sales floors. 

Or, unfortunately, a call from a bookie. 

That’s right, it’s March, a long month (there’s actually 34 days, I can tell you where they’re hidden if you pay me) devoid of holidays created by advertising agencies (technically religion invented St. Patrick’s Day in an attempt to gain access to eternal life), frequented by still-terrible weather (although places other than the Pacific Northwest and Alaska start to see glimmers of spring), and ripe with growing fears of having to do our taxes (I don’t pay taxes, don’t tell anyone), made slightly more palatable by the opportunity to drink Shamrock Shakes (we just meant advertising agencies didn’t invent St. Patrick’s Day, we never claimed multinational corporations haven’t figured out ways to profit from it).

I, for one, do enjoy me a Shamrock Shake, way more than the McRib.

So, with March, comes the madness. Er, Madness® – at least I think it’s a registered trademark, I don’t want to get in trouble here. The NCAA is terrifying, and I assume they’re omniscient, incredibly buff Evil Genius Super Villains. How else can you explain convincing a bunch of premier athletes to make various schools tons of money and then not give them a cut? Anyway, I like to call the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament the Age of Madness.

(For the record, any Division II or III Championship Tournament, as well as the much less commercially lauded NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament…and really any college sport, men or women’s, where young athletes compete while adults froth at the mouth over the potential for personal gain, can be categorized as a part of the Age of Madness). 

As previously implied, the defining characteristic of this Age is gambling, specifically at work, which is technically illegal and certainly unreasonable and possibly dangerous if you’re operating heavy equipment. But again, we’re not calling it Madness for nothing.

My first foray into the world of office betting pools…ah, perhaps we should call them company-sanctioned competitions only accessible during lunch breaks so we don’t get in trouble – was in 1995 when I played Fantasy Football for the first time. Back then, most of you were likely not alive, which makes me upset, but it’s important for you to understand how analog it was. I worked a summer job in an over air-conditioned office filled with 90’s business casual-wearers (think pleated khakis and short-sleeve button up shirts). The Draft (back then it was just called “the draft”) happened over the course of one hour utilizing a conference table, legal pads, pens, and stats from the sports page of the local paper, along with several issues of Sports Illustrated. 

Ha! Now that’s research. You soft young people with your apps and streaming services and Draft Kings accounts and scrolling binary statistics. You don’t know how easy you’ve got it. Your only hand cramps come from feverishly trying to keep your opines atop a Fantasy Reddit thread as you desperately mash on your phone is some desperate attempt at creating self-worth.

Woah what happened there? Sorry about that. I’m having some rage issues of late. Let’s keep this thing moving shall we? 

I recall using the first pick of the entire draft on a wide receiver by the name of J.J. Stokes (drafted by the 49’ers…my healthy loathing of anything from the Bay Area hadn’t fully developed yet)Next, I drafted a kicker. At this point, based on the expressions of the poorly dressed, middle-aged men who owned my employ – {women really weren’t invited to play Fantasy Football, which is terrible and sexist, and a typical, completely illogical thing for a group of seemingly heterosexual males to do. It’s like purposefully not inviting girls, or whoever you like, to your house party} – I realized I had made a terrible mistake. 

Thus, based on incompetence, I had an awful fantasy season and lost $100 in cold hard cash. Adjusted for inflation this is like losing your house today. 

The following year (that’s 1996 for those not paying attention) this same group invited me to “fill out a bracket” ostensibly related to March Madness®…ah, The Age of Madness. So I steadfastly ignored my disastrous Fantasy Football season, filled out the stupid thing (with a pen), and upped the ante to $200. All without wondering why I was being invited back given I didn’t work there anymore. Hmmmmm. 

Of course I also lost this wise investment. I blame it on a serious of cataclysmic gastrointestinal issues suffered by Wake Forest before their Sweet 16 game against Kentucky, which turned out to be not so sweet.  Or maybe I just lost it because I’m not good at gambling. Or sports. Which is why I now officially scowl at the mention of Fantasy Football and/or the Age of Madness. Especially if they’re somehow mentioned simultaneously. And especially if someone is paying attention to me, which is a rare event indeed.  

Despite my distaste for these events I have to admit that between the two, the Age of Madness is a bigger deal. In fact, I’d like to formerly stake the claim that the Age of Madness® is Officially Better Than Fantasy Football®. That second ® is mine, I just registered the phrase with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, don’t touch it. 

I know you’re tired and likely hankering for a bourbon and Squirt® – which is delicious if you haven’t tried it but really more of a summertime thing so maybe you should wait until then, plus you have to be careful ‘cause it goes down real smooth which is why I like to call them Wobblypops – so let me enlighten you as to why. To expediate the process I’ll henceforth refer to the championship tournament as March Madness. 

First of all, the betting pools behind March Madness coined an entirely new word: Bracketology. What “-ology” has Fantasy Football ever made? I guess it contributes to “psychology” based on the several nervous breakdowns I’ve witnessed when “garbage time” during a real-life NFL game determines the outcome of a tight fantasy game. Nervous breakdowns are so fun to watch when it’s not you! But still, Fantasy Football? Officially Not As Good. 

Next, the NCAA Tournament spreads joy throughout otherwise dreary office settings by encouraging the proliferation of cheap puns for bracket names (it’s part of the NCAA’s marketing strategy). Puns are great – you can get a ton of mileage out of them. I did a quick scan and in about .9 seconds here’s what I found for bracket puns from last year’s tournament: Full Metal Bracket, Final Fourgasm, Zion King, Hoops There It Is, This Whole Thing’s A Bracket…hilarious! And that’s just .9 seconds worth! 

Okay, it’s not that good, maybe the bracket name thing is a dud, forget I brought it up. 

How about how betting on college basketball in March just makes people clinically insane? Billionaire investor Warren Buffet, a long-time basketball fan, singlehandedly offered his Berkshire Hathaway employees $1 million a year for life if they guess which teams make it to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, it’s estimated 70 million brackets are filled out each year with $10.4 billion wagered in total – greater than the GDP of many countries. But here’s the best part – particularly in office settings, the time spent focused on bracketology rather than work during the NCAA Tournament is estimated to be worth $6.3 billion in corporate LOSSES. 

But it’s good for morale and stuff. Can you imagine capturing those gains and then distributing them to employees as fair portioning of…oh never mind I won’t go there.   

Finally, what about the horrible rage March Madness induces when some dolt who threw in five bucks and barely pays attention during the intense two-week Tournament ‘cause he’s too busy chillin’ and kicking it with cool people you wish you knew wins the whole thing? Or the intern wins? Or that guy who’s always sucking up to the boss? Or the little old lady who won’t retire which makes you mad because you want her parking space? Fantasy Football rage just doesn’t compare to March Madness rage – it can’t. The emotional journey of Fantasy Football is too long and spread out with lots of ups and downs – March Madness compresses all that energy into one big blast of obsessive competition complete with either a screaming rocket-fueled launch to massive heights or a dizzying, stomach-churning drop to dreadful, going-to-have-to-sell-your-car-to-cover-the-spread lows. 

Ok, no one really gets mad at little old ladies who win massive betting pools. I don’t think. 

The point of all this is for you to accept my assertion that it’s March. It is, you can deny it all you want, but it is. And since it’s March things are about to get really crazy. I hope you’re ready. A good way to prepare is to start your day with a Shamrock Shake. Go for it. It’s on me.    

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About Patrick McNerthney 51 Articles
Patrick McNerthney is a former President, Titan of Industry and general Society-Improver. He owns a business called Outcasting, which purportedly offers writing services, but is most likely a front for the illegal import and distribution of vacant hermit crab shells. Patrick aspires to own an NFL team and take over his block. He’s written four books: How to Break Out of Prison*, How to Cheat on Your Taxes*, How to Steal Your Neighbor’s Roof*, and The Future Will Not Involve Underwear**. *Not written yet **Not formatted or published yet